Rupert Sheldrake questions the most important scientific dogmas!

Rupert_Sheldrake_TEDx_TalkRupert Sheldrake, a scientist and well-known author of over 80 scientific papers and 10 books, recently gave a speech in which he blew up the dogmas of those who said: ” I do not believe in God. I believe in science.” His speech was censored by TEDx.




Below is the transcript of this speech:

Scientific deception is deluded by the belief that, in principle, science already understands the nature of reality, and that only the details need to be filled in. This belief is widespread in our society. It’s the kind of faith of people who say, “I don’t believe in God. I believe in science.” It is a faith that has spread throughout the world today. But there is a conflict at the basis of science between science as a method of research based on reason, evidence, hypotheses and collective research and science as a belief system or worldview. Unfortunately, the worldview aspect of science has come to inhibit and constrain free research, which is the very purpose and meaning of science.


Since the end of the nineteenth century, science has been carried out under the aspect of a belief or conception of the essentially materialistic world. Philosophical materialism. Today the sciences are entirely subsidiaries of the materialist worldview. I believe that if we get rid of this way of thinking, the sciences will regenerate.


In my book “The Science Delusion”1 – called in the U.S. “Science Set Free”2, I took the 10 dogmas or scientific assumptions and turned them into questions, to see how they withstand a scientific analysis. None of them hold up very well. I will review the 10 dogmas I am referring to, then I will have time to discuss only 1-2 in detail.


In the essential way, the 10 dogmas that form the standard conception of life of the most trained people in the whole world are:


Dogma 1: – that nature is mechanical or that it functions as a mechanism, the universe is like a machine, animals and plants are machines, we are machines. In fact, we are machines. We are “wood-cutting robots,” as Richard Dawkins put it, with brains that are genetically programmed computers.


Dogma 2: – matter is unconscious, the whole universe is made up of unconscious matter. There is no consciousness in stars, in galaxies, in planets, in animals, in plants, and that there should be no consciousness in us if this theory were true. So the whole philosophy of the mind over the last century has tried to prove that, in fact, we are not at all aware.


Dogma 3 – If matter is unconscious it means that the laws of nature are fixed. That’s the third dogma. The laws of nature today are the same ones that were valid in the time of the big bang and will remain the same all the time. Not only the laws, but also the constants of nature are fixed, which is why they are called constants.


Dogma 4: – The total amount of matter and energy is always the same. The total quantity of the two never varies, except at the time of the big bang, when everything came into being out of nothing, instantly.


Dogma 5: – nature has no purpose, there is no purpose in all nature, and the evolutionary process has no purpose or direction.


Dogma 6: – biological heredity is material, everything you inherit you have in the genes or in the epigenetic changes of the genes, or in the cytoplasmic inheritance. It’s something material.


Dogma 7: – Memories are stored inside the brain as material traces. One way or another, everything you remember is in your brain, in the phosphorylated proteins of nerve endings. No one knows how this works, however, almost all scientists think it has to be in the brain.


Dogma 8: Your mind is in your head. All your consciousness is just brain activity and nothing more.


Dogma 9, which derives from dogma 8: psychic phenomena, such as telepathy for example, are impossible. Your thoughts and intentions cannot have any effect at a distance because your mind is inside your head. So all the apparent evidence for telepathy and other psychic phenomena is illusory. People think these things happen just because they don’t know enough statistics, or because they’re misled by coincidences or what they want to believe.


And dogma 10: — mechanistic medicine is the only one that really works. That’s why governments only fund research into mechanistic medicine and totally ignore complementary or alternative therapies. Those can’t work because they’re not mechanistic. It might seem to work because people would have done well anyway or because of the placebo effect. But the only one that really works is mechanistic medicine.


This is the standard worldview of almost every educated person in the world, it underpins education, the medical system, the Medical Research Council, governments, and it’s the foundation of the faith of educated people.


I think each of these dogmas are very, very questionable, and when you study them, they fall apart.


I will first talk about the idea that the laws of nature are fixed, immutable. It is a continuation of a point of view, before 1960, when the big bang theory appeared. Before, people believed that the universe was eternal, governed by eternal mathematical laws. Upon the emergence of the big bang theory, this assumption continued, although the big bang revealed a universe that has evolved radically, 14 billion years old, that has been growing, developing and evolving for 14 billion years. It grows, it cools down, and new structures and patterns appear in it all the time. The point is that all the laws of nature were completely fixed at the time of the big bang, like a cosmic Napoleonic code.


As my friend Terence McKenna said: “Modern science is based on the principle: Give us a pure miracle and we explain the rest to you.” And one of the pure miracles is the appearance of matter and energy in the universe and of all the laws that govern it out of nothing, in an instant. If the universe evolves, why wouldn’t its laws also evolve? After all, social laws evolve, and the idea of the laws of nature is metaphorically similar. It’s a purely anthropocentric metaphor: only people have laws, in fact, only advanced societies have laws.


As C. S. Lewis once said: “To say that a stone falls because it obeys the laws of physics makes it human, even a citizen.” It’s such a metaphor that I’ve forgotten it’s a metaphor.


In an evolving universe I think the idea of habits would be better suited. I believe that the customs of nature evolve, that the regularities of nature are essentially habitual. This is an idea put forward in the early twentieth century by the American philosopher C. S. Peirce. It’s an idea that many other philosophers have courted, and that I myself have developed into a scientific hypothesis, the hypothesis of morphic resonance, which underlies these evolving habits. According to this hypothesis, everything we find in nature has a kind of collective memory. The resonance happens because of the similarities. When a giraffe embryo grows in the mother’s womb, it accords to the morphic resonance of the giraffes before it, it connects to that collective memory, and it grows like a giraffe, it acts like a giraffe, because it connects to the collective memory. They have to have certain genes to create certain proteins, but I think the genes are a lot overestimated. They are only responsible for the type of proteins synthesized by the body, not for its shape or behavior.


All species have a certain type of collective memory. Even the crystals. This theory holds that if you make a new crystal for the first time, the first time you do it, there’s not going to be a habit by which it’s structured. But once it crystallizes, the next time you do it will be influenced by the first crystal, and from this second anywhere in the world through a morphic resonance and it will crystallize more easily. The third time he will be influenced by the first and second crystals. In fact, there is strong evidence that new substances crystallize more easily all over the world, as this theory claims. The theory also holds that if you train animals to do something new, for example if you teach rats to do something specific in London, then rats of the same race all over the world learn that more easily just because some rats have learned it here. The surprising thing is that there is already evidence that this is really happening.


That would be, in a nutshell, my theory of morphic resonance: that it all depends on the evolution of habits and not on immutable laws.


I also want to talk a little bit about natural constants, because they are supposed to be constants. Things like gravitational attraction, the speed of light are called fundamental constants. But are they really constant? I was interested to find out the answer to this question. There are tables in physics textbooks with existing fundamental constants and their values. I wanted to find out if they had changed over time, so I looked for older physics textbooks. I went to the Patent Library in London, which is the only place where I found such older textbooks kept. Normally, people throw away the old ones. When the new values appear, the old ones are discarded. That’s how I found out that the speed of light dropped between 1928 and 1945 by 20 km/second. It’s a huge drop, because the values of the constants were accurately given by fractions. However, all over the world, it declined and they all found similar values with small differences, then in (1945) 1948 it grew again, and again different researchers found values very close.


I was very annoyed and didn’t understand how it was possible, so I went to the head of Metrology, to the National Physics Laboratory, in Teddington. Metrology is the science that deals with the measurement of constants. I told him what puzzled me:


– What do you think about this decrease in the speed of light between 1928 and 1945?


He replied, “ Oh, alas, you’ve discovered the most embarrassing episode in the history of exact sciences.


Me: — The speed of light could indeed have gone down, and that would have had huge implications.


Him: – No, no. Of course it hasn’t actually dropped. It’s just a constant!


-Well. So how do you explain that most of them found much lower values at the time? Is it because they “adjusted” the results to get what they assumed they were expecting others to achieve, and it was all just the product of the minds of some physicists?


– We do not like the word “adjusted”.


Me: – Okay. What word do you like?


He: – Well, I’d rather call it a “period of intellectual lockdown.”


– If this happened then how do we know that it is not happening now, and that the present values are not also the result of an intellectual blockade?


Him: – No, now we know it’s not like that.


Me: – How do we know?


He: — Well, the problem has been solved.


Me: – Yes? How?


He: – We solved the speed of light, defining it again in 1972.


Me: – So, it might change.


Him: – Yes, but we won’t know anymore because we’ve defined the meter according to the speed of light, so all the units are going to change at the same time.


He was very pleased that the problem had been resolved.


– Okay, I said, but what about the big “G“? [The gravitational constant, denoted by “g” (in our country), in the English system with “G” (large G).]


Newton’s universal constant. It has varied by over 1.3 percent in recent years. And it seems to vary from place to place, from time to time.


– Here there may be mistakes, unfortunately even big, related to the “big G”, he said.


– And if it really changes? Maybe it even changes, I said.


Then I studied how they establish it. They measure it in different labs, they get different values on different days, and then they average it. Other labs in the world do the same, and they usually get a different average. Then the International Metrology Committee meets every 10 years or so, and averages the values obtained by the laboratories of the world and decrees the value of the great G. But if it Does G really fluctuate? What if it has changed? There is evidence that it changes over the course of a day and throughout the year. What if the Earth, in its movement through space, has passed through portions of dark matter, or if other environmental factors have influenced it? Maybe they’re all changing at the same time. What if these erroneous values go up and down at the same time?


For more than 10 years I have been trying to convince metrologists to consider the concrete data. In fact, now I’m trying to convince them to put on the Internet, online, the real data and values obtained, to see if they correlate, to see if they all increase at the same time or decrease at other times. If they fluctuated at the same time, that would tell us something very interesting. But no one did that because G it’s a constant. There is no point in looking for changes.


It’s an exemplification of how a dogmatic assumption inhibits research. I think constants can even vary considerably, that’s right within certain limits, but they can all vary. I think the day will come when science journals, like Nature, will report constants on a weekly basis, like the stock market reports in the newspapers:


This week the big G has increased slightly, the electron charge has decreased, the speed of light has not changed, and so on.


It’s just one of the areas where, thinking less dogmatically, things would take on a different opening. One of the largest areas is that of the nature of the mind, and it’s the least solved, as Graham said just now. Science simply cannot explain that we are aware. And it can’t explain that thoughts don’t seem to be in the brain. Not all of our experiences seem to be in the brain. Your image of me doesn’t seem to be in your brain. However, the official version is that there’s a little Rupert somewhere in your head and that everything in this room is in your head. Your experiences take place in your brains.


I suggest, in fact, that a vision involves a projection of images apart, that what you see is in your mind, but not in your head. Our minds are extended beyond our brains by the simple act of perception. I think we’re projecting outside images that we’re seeing and these images are touching what we’re looking at. If I look at you from behind and you don’t know it’s there, does it affect you? Can you feel my gaze? There is ample evidence that yes. The feeling that someone is watching you is a fairly common experience, and recent experiments suggest that it’s a real ability. And animals have that ability. It probably developed in the context of the prey-raptor relationship. The hunted animals that feel the predator’s fixed gaze survive better than the others. This leads us to a new way of thinking about the ecological relationships between predator and prey, and also to the expansion of the mind.


We look at distant stars, and our minds expand as if they were touching them and actually extend to different astronomical distances. They are not just in our heads.


It seems amazing that this can be a topic of debate in the twenty-first century. We know so little about our minds, about where our images are, and that’s a hot topic debated by studies of consciousness nowadays.


I don’t have time to clarify other dogmas, but each of them is doubtful. The moment you doubt them, new possibilities arise. As we begin to doubt these dogmas that strain science, it will experience a flourishing, a Renaissance. I strongly believe in the importance of science. I’ve spent my entire life, my entire career, as a researcher. But I believe that if we rise above these dogmas, science can be regenerated. It will become interesting again and will sustain life.







1[1] The deception of science


2[1] The liberation of science


Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D. (born 28 June 1942) is a biologist and author of over 80 scientific papers and 10 books. A former researcher of the Royal Society, he studied natural sciences at Cambridge University, where he was a Scholar of Clare College, with two awards of excellence, and received the University’s Award for Botany. He then studied philosophy and the history of science at Harvard, obtaining the title of Frank Knox Fellow, before returning to Cambridge, where he received his Ph.D. in biochemistry. He was a Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge, where he was Director of Studies in Biochemistry and Cell Biology. As a Rosenheim Research Fellow of the Royal Society, he led research on plant development and cell ageing in the Department of Biochemistry at Cambridge University.


While in Cambridge, with Philip Rubery, he discovered the polar transport mechanism of auxin, a process by which the plant hormone, called auxine, is transported from the buds to the root.


From 1968 to 1969, established in the Department of Botany of the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, studied tropical plants. From 1974 to 1985 he was head of the plant physiology department and consultant physiologist for the International Crop Research Institute for semi-arid tropical climate (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India, where he helped develop a new harvesting system, now widely used by farmers. While in India, he lived for 1 and a half years in the ashram of Fr Bede Griffiths in Tamil Nadu, where he wrote his first book, A New Science of Life.


From 2005 to 2010 he was director of the Perrott-Warrick Project funded by Trinity College, Cambridge. He’s a member of Schumacher College in Darlington, Devon of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, near San Francisco, and Honorary Professor at the Graduate Institute in Connecticut.


He lives in London with his wife Jill Purce and two sons.


He has appeared in many TV programs in England and abroad and, along with Stephen Jay Gould, Daniel Dennett, Oliver Sacks, Freeman Dyson and Stephen Toulmin, in a TV series – “A Glorious Accident” (“A Glorious Accident”), broadcast on PBS channels throughout the US. He has often taken part in BBC shows and other radio programmes. He wrote for newspapers such as “The Guardian”, in which he had a monthly column, for The Times, Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Sunday Times, Times Educational Supplement, Times Higher Education Supplement and Times Literary Supplement, and has had articles in numerous magazines, including New Scientist, Resurgence, the Ecologist and the Spectator.


Books by Rupert Sheldrake:


A New Science of Life: The Hypothesis of Formative Causation (1981).3 New edition of 2009 (published in the USA under the name of Morphic Resonance).


The Presence of the Past: Morphic Resonance and the Habits of Nature (1988)4


The Rebirth of Nature: The Greening of Science and God (1992)5


Seven Experiments that Could Change the World: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Revolutionary Science (1994)6. (Winner of the Book of the Year award from the British Institute for Social Inventions)


Dogs that Know When Their Owners are Coming Home, and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals (1999)7 (Book of the Year, awarded by the British Scientific and Medical Network in 1999)


The Sense of Being Stared At, And Other Aspects of the Extended Mind (2003)8


Along with Ralph Abraham and Terence McKenna:


Trialogues at the Edge of the West (1992)9, republished as Chaos, Creativity and Cosmic Consciousness (2001)10


The Evolutionary Mind (1998)11


With Matthew Fox:


Natural Grace: Dialogues on Science and Spirituality (1996)12


The Physics of Angels: Exploring the Realm Where Science and Spirit Meet (1996)13

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